They modify the famous Spot robot dog so that it can check patients, avoiding contact with health workers

Technology News

According to data from the last week, the infected Spanish health professionals exceed 55,800 . Although some recent reports indicate that Spain is the country in which there are more cases among health personnel – 20% of the positives belong to this group, compared to 10% in Italy or 3% in the United States – the truth is that they are in a situation of risk .

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To try to tackle this problem, researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have devised an innovative solution: implement the famous Boston Dynamics robot dog with a system that allows it to measure skin temperature, respiratory rate, respiratory rate pulse rate and blood oxygen saturation from a distance of 2 meters .

To do this, they have placed four cameras in Spot to allow non-contact monitoring of vital signs: an infrared camera plus three monochrome cameras that filter different wavelengths of light.


“The researchers developed algorithms that allow them to use the infrared camera to measure both elevated skin temperature and respiratory rate . For body temperature, the camera measures the temperature of the skin on the face and the algorithm correlates that temperature with the core body temperature. The algorithm also takes into account the ambient temperature and the distance between the camera and the patient, so measurements can be taken from different distances, in different weather conditions and still be accurate, ”they say from MIT News .

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To calculate the respiratory rate of the patient, his rhythm is controlled: “Asinhale and exhale with a mask, your breath changes the temperature of the mask . Measuring this change in temperature allows researchers to calculate how fast the patient is breathing. ”

The three monochromatic cameras each filter a different wavelength of light: 670, 810, and 880 nanometers. These wavelengths allow researchers to measure the slight color changes that occur when hemoglobin in blood cells binds to oxygen and flows through blood vessels. The researchers’ algorithm uses these measurements to calculate both pulse rate and blood oxygen saturation.

“We didn’t really develop new technology to do the measurements,” says one of the lead researchers. “What we did was integrate them together in a very specific way to analyze different vital signs at the same time.”

Healthcare workers can maneuver the robot to where patients are sitting using a remote controller , minimizing their exposure to potentially infectious patients. In addition, Spot can also carry a tablet so that professionals can ask patients about their symptoms without being in the same room.

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While in the short term the researchers plan to focus on their application for triage , in the long term they envision that robots could be brought into rooms and function as a method of screening patients.

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